Sunday, June 23, 2024

Secretary Austin: A Move on Ukraine Will Accomplish the Very Thing Russia Says It Does Not Want

Washington, DC – At the Pentagon briefing today (January 28), Secretary of Defense Austin told the press that the United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our NATO allies, including reinforcing security on NATO’s eastern flank.

“As we’ve made clear, in addition to the significant economic and diplomatic costs that Russia will incur, a move on Ukraine will accomplish the very thing Russia says it does not want — a NATO alliance strengthened and resolved on its Western Flank,” said Secretary Austin.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Milley, said that Russia has the ability to launch an offensive with minimal warning, but, “If Russia chooses to invade Ukraine, it will not be cost free, in terms of casualties or other significant effects.”

Earlier this week, the Department of Defense placed 8500 US-based military personnel on high alert “to provide forces if NATO should activate the NATO Response Force (NRF) or if other situations develop.”

In a phone interview with GSV, former Canadian federal minister Chris Alexander, who spent six years in Canada’s embassy in Moscow as a foreign service officer, said no one would be surprised if a major offensive occurs. “The shape of the objectives of a Russian military offensive are still not totally clear, but there is a dawning realization that this is not just a tabletop exercise or a more pronounced round of saber-rattling. It is a military offensive that has been planned and is very likely to be implemented.”

There have been new allied NATO assets positioned in the Baltic states and other forward postures ever since Putin’s first invasion of Ukraine in 2014. Those commitments are being underlined today as the Biden administration moves from emphasizing the status quo to beefing up its presence in the front line NATO states that are most likely to be affected by this offensive. “That said, Ukraine has felt very much on its own until now, all through 2021, as this Russian military buildup was happening,” said Alexander, although a few countries continued to supply weapons, ammunition, and other enablers through 2021, notably the Baltic states, especially Lithuania, Poland, and a few others. In the past month, the UK, the United States, and others have adjusted their posture and ramped up their military assistance to Ukraine, notes Alexander, but “it probably isn’t enough to deter Putin from his overall objective, which is really to extinguish Ukrainian sovereignty. He told us in very plain terms last summer in a published article, what many of us have always known about him, which is that Ukraine is his obsession. And he’s been preparing for it all through his presidency to ensure there is no democracy in Ukraine by whatever means.”

Reform and democracy in Ukraine have advanced despite all odds over the last eight years, and the only card Putin feels he has left is the military. “It’s sad and incredibly dangerous because he will be repeating the sins of Europe’s greatest villains of the 20th century. I think what’s going to happen probably next month will be only comparable to what Putin’s idol Stalin did together with Hitler in the 1930s and 1940s, which was literally to invade countries, annex them, occupy them, and extinguish their sovereignty,” says Alexander, adding that for Putin to be seeking to invade a large European state with his regular army is definitely unprecedented since 1945. No one is ready for the consequences because Ukrainians will fight and others will join them.

In his press briefing, Secretary Austin spoke of Russian state media “spouting off now about alleged activities in the eastern Ukraine. Now, this is straight out of the Russian playbook, and they’re not fooling us. We remain focused on Russian disinformation, including the potential creation of pretext for further invasion or strikes on Donbas.”

Russian officials have falsely accused NATO of threats and hostile actions to justify its own misdeeds. In a recent post on its website, NATO has debunked the top myths that Russia has been spouting. Russia claims that NATO promised it would not expand after the Cold War, but there was never any such agreement. Article 10 of NATO’s founding treaty clearly says that “any other European State in a position to further the principles of this Treaty and to contribute to the security of the North Atlantic” can apply for membership. Russia claims that NATO is aggressive and a threat to Russia, but “NATO’s official policy is that ‘the Alliance does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to Russia.’ NATO didn’t invade Georgia; NATO didn’t invade Ukraine. Russia did.” Russia says that NATO is encircling and trying to contain Russia, but in reality, the purpose of NATO’s exercises and military deployments is to defend its member states.

Additionally, of the 14 countries Russia shares a border with, only five are NATO members, which amounts to just 6 percent of Russia’s land borders. Another Russian myth is that Ukraine cannot join NATO, but the reality is NATO Allies welcome Ukraine’s hopes to join NATO, and they stand behind the decision made at the 2008 Bucharest Summit that Ukraine will become a member of the Alliance. Decisions regarding NATO membership are up to the applicant and the 30 NATO Allies. Russia has no right to intervene and cannot veto this process.

Putin has completely dominated at any debate on this issue that takes place in the Russian language with his very sophisticated propaganda machine, which insists that Russia is encircled, Ukraine is full of extremists and that Ukrainians want to rejoin some larger Russian union, which of course, they don’t want to do, says Alexander. “So it’s the propaganda that has detached Russian public opinion and Putin’s policy entirely from reality, which makes it very dangerous indeed.”

Most Russians get their news from television which is totally controlled by the Kremlin and it is the most extreme news feed that you’ll see in Russia today, with really hair-raising claims being made that have fired up Russian opinion in really dangerous ways. “I don’t think Russians want a war. It’s going to be hard to explain why they’re invading a country more or less unprovoked. No one in Russia has been told the story of how proud Ukrainians are of their independence or how deeply Ukrainians want to integrate into Europe or how committed Ukrainians are, to having democratic institutions,” says Alexander, and “That story is completely ignored in Russia for obvious reasons.”


Author profile
Poonam Sharma

Poonam is a multi-media journalist, and Founder and Editor of Global Strat View. She was the Managing Editor of India America Today (IAT) for seven years, and launched its print edition in 2019 with IAT's Founder and Editor, the late Tejinder Singh.

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